The supposedly cursed poem known as Tomino’s Hell has been a famous creepypasta for a long time and an urban legend before that. But what is the truth behind the dark and twisted poem?

A popular Japanese urban legend is about Tomino’s Hell,トミノの地獄. It is a poem that is said you should only read in your mind, never out loud. It follows the tradition of Bloody Mary and Candyman that words hold power, and sometimes it can hurt like hell. 

The Legend Passed Around

The legend is that Tomino, often thought to be a boy, lived in Japan and wrote the poem. He was a sickly child and sat in a wheelchair. The poem is pretty gruesome at some parts and his parents didn’t approve of it at all. Because of it, they locked him in the cellar, not feeding him and he eventually died of bronchitis. 

The poem was from then on cursed with Tomino’s spirit and anger imprinted in every word, ready to come to life when reading it out loud. 

The Origin of the Poem

This is obviously just the legend that is created of the legend of the legend. In fact we do know quite a bit about the actual writer of the poem, and he wasn’t thrown in a cellar to die because his parents thought the poem was too grim. 

The poem is originally written by Saizo Yaso, 西條 八十, when he was 26 years old in a  collection of poems in 1919 called Sakin or Gold Dust. He was a university professor that studied at Sorbonne in France. And although most of his work was really geared towards children, making nursery rhymes and introducing Alice in Wonderland in Japan, this particular poem stands out as much darker and twisted than the average poem you read out loud. 

There are many theories about the poem and why it was created in the first place. Many say that Yaso wrote the poem after the death of a family member as a way to express the feeling of sorrow and despair. 

How this poem from the turn of the century ended up being seen as a cursed poem. There is not a specific thing that is said to happen, but most often comes with a warning that ‘bad things will happen’. Most commonly, you are supposedly dragged to hell. 

What is the poem about?

If you are curious about the whole poem, a translation into English is included at the end. but in summary it seems to tell the story of a little boy and his journey into hell. There are also many references to war and a descent into darkness and loneliness. 

Bildetekst: The painting commonly associated with the poem ‘Tomino’s Hell’ was not created with this specific poem in mind. It has been attributed to an artist named Yuko Tatsushima and was supposedly designed to represent death or suicide but not as they relate to the poem. The painting is called ‘I don’t want to be a bride anymore.’
Tomino’s Hell: The painting commonly associated with the poem ‘Tomino’s Hell’ was not created with this specific poem in mind. It has been attributed to an artist named Yuko Tatsushima and was supposedly designed to represent death or suicide but not as they relate to the poem. The painting is called ‘I don’t want to be a bride anymore.’

The Deadly Poem

The effects of the poems are many, but alas, not well documented, but it is often accidents, loss of their voice, illness and in the worst scenarios, death. A young girl supposedly died a few moments after reading the poem out loud, but when, who she was, is never discussed. This also goes for the rumors of the university students dying after reading it also. The question is, did anything happen to those reading the poem?

What we do know is that a man made a movie called To Die in the Countryside in 1974, it was much based on the poem. The writer and director Terayama Shuji died after and people started to say it was because of the poem. 

Although we know that Terayama died early at 47, nine years after the movie came out, he died of a liver complication of a liver disease that he had been battling since he was a teenager. And he didn’t even quote the poem, but was only influenced. Is that enough to invoke the curse? 

When we got to the 80s, there was a trend of filming when friends read the poem out loud. This also became a trend in the early 2000s across forums of users writing that they were going to read the poem out loud, but then never came back to post how it went. 

The poem was read out loud many times throughout the writer’s lifetime without it doing anything to the writer who lived a long life. 

It wasn’t until by Yomata Inuhiko, 四方田 犬彦, in his book of poem The Heart is Like A Rolling Stone, 心は転がる石のように, he called out the poem in 2004. Yomota claimed that the reader would suffer a terrible fate, but rumors about the dead director and the students were already whispered about under the surface. And at the dawn of the internet, the poem got resurrected and was sent frequently in forums with the curse attached to it. 

Tomino’s Hell

Perhaps the feeling of sickness is something we can attribute more to the poem itself and the eerily feeling it leaves you with. And it perhaps isn’t the power of a curse people feel the sickness off, but the power of word. 

The English translation of the poem has been mostly done by people just trying to get the point across. But a writer and translator David Bowles did a good translation of the disturbing poem to date. Read the entirety with his notes here.

Tomino’s Hell

Elder sister vomits blood
younger sister’s breathing fire
while sweet little Tomino
just spits up the jewels.

All alone does Tomino
go falling into that hell,
a hell of utter darkness,
without even flowers.

Is Tomino’s big sister
the one who whips him?
The purpose of the scourging
hangs dark in his mind.

Lashing and thrashing him, ah!
But never quite shattering.
One sure path to Avici,
the eternal hell.

Into that blackest of hells
guide him now, I pray—
to the golden sheep,
to the nightingale.

How much did he put
in that leather pouch
to prepare for his trek to
the eternal hell?

Spring is coming
to the valley, to the wood,
to the spiraling chasms
of the blackest hell.

The nightingale in her cage,
the sheep aboard the wagon,
and tears well up in the eyes
of sweet little Tomino.

Sing, o nightingale,
in the vast, misty forest—
he screams he only misses
his little sister.

His wailing desperation
echoes throughout hell—
a fox peony
opens its golden petals.

Down past the seven mountains
and seven rivers of hell—
the solitary journey
of sweet little Tomino.

If in this hell they be found,
may they then come to me, please,
those sharp spikes of punishment
from Needle Mountain.

Not just on some empty whim
Is flesh pierced with blood-red pins:
they serve as hellish signposts
for sweet little Tomino.

—translated by David Bowles
June 29, 2014

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